Arthur's chuckling followed Merlin out of the hall and he scowled to himself, reaching up to pick… something that looked rather in likeness to grass from his ear. Honestly! What were the people of Camelot thinking? First potatoes, now grass? What on earth happened to chucking rotten fruit? His scowl deepening, Merlin slammed into Gaius' chambers and poured himself a bowl of fresh water before proceeding to pick tomato pips from his hair.
“Nice view,” Arthur's voice sounded from somewhere behind him and Merlin bit back a sigh as he straightened and turned to face the prince who was leaning himself, quite the thing, in the doorway. He shot Arthur a very unimpressed look before turning back to the bowl of water without a word.
“Come now, Merlin,” Arthur called, amusement lacing his voice, “surely you're not upset?”
“Me? Upset? Course not. Why would you think that?”
“Oh, I don't know, it could be the cold shoulder you appear to be giving me?”
Merlin straightened again, “Fine. I'm upset. Happy?”
“Well you shouldn’t be.” Arthur stated simply, folding his arms across his chest. “You should be proud. We helped the Pudsey by raising charity. It is an honourable feat to have accomplished. You are a hero amongst men.”
“A hero?” Merlin asked with undisguised disbelief. “Right.”
“Merlin!” Arthur admonished.
Merlin sighed. “It is not that.”
“Not the raising of the charity for Pudsey.” Merlin said, “That's not what I'm upset about.”
“Oh.” Arthur blinked blankly at him a moment, his lips pursing into a pout. “Well then, why are you upset?”
“I'm upset,” Merlin began, stressing his words, “because for the umpteenth time this week I’ve been put in the stocks. Now, it's fun every now and then, all things considered, but do you have any idea just how hard it is to pick rotten fruit from your hair once it's dried in?”
“No. I didn't think so.” Merlin glared at him. Arthur smiled slowly, stepping forward.
“It can't be that bad?” He asked, lifting a hand to touch at Merlin's cheek. “Can it?”
“It can.” Merlin hedged, though he leant into the touch. “You try doing it with a pitcher of cold water and a wooden bowl. It doesn't matter how much I scrub, inevitably I always miss a bit.”
“Hmmm, poor Merlin,” Arthur agreed, his smile growing as he reached behind his back and pulled out a small, hand-sized version of the Pudsey.
“In thanks to your services this day,” he said, offering the tiny bear to Merlin who took it with a reluctant smile. Arthur leant in, a hand on his shoulder as he pressed his lips to Merlin's ear.
“And if you're quite finished here, I've a bath prepared in my chambers. If you're quick, I may even be persuaded into washing your hair.”
Arthur pulled away, winked in promise and slipped out of Gaius' rooms without a backwards look.
Merlin stood, staring after him for a moment. He looked at the bear in his hand. He looked to the doorway. He took all of five seconds to make up his mind.
And if he had any say in it, Arthur would be doing a lot more than simply washing his hair.
[ end. ]
[ written as part of Caspe-Wri-Mo ]